The Ocean Institute is nationally known for its award winning, hands-on marine science, environmental education and maritime history programs. Students, families and the general public become tall ship sailors, research scientists, oceanographers, and explorers while immersed in Ocean Institute programs.
Ocean Institute Mission
Using the ocean as our classroom, we inspire children to learn.
The Institute grew steadily from inception to the point that the facilities were at 100% capacity. In 1999, the Board of Directors voted to expand, and initiated a capital fundraising campaign for the design and construction of new facilities. Construction of the six building, 33,800 sq. ft. campus began in early 2001. It took 18 months to build at a cost of $16.5 million, all generously donated by numerous friends from throughout the country. The capstone occasion came in October 2002 when the new Ocean Education Center opened for the people of Southern California and beyond.
Ocean Education Center – comprised of the Ecology Learning Center, Packard At Sea Learning Center, Folino Center for Technology and Communications, and Surfscience Learning Center; teaching stations include marine life tanks, wet-tables with video-microscopes, a wave tank, a children’s theater, a ROV testing tank, and a sleeping deck with sweeping ocean views.
Student and Teacher Services Building – the administrative center also houses the entry to Headlands and Beyond: A hands on exploration center that is now open to the public on weekdays and weekends! Spot live animals in our kelp forest, operate touchscreen technology to delve into the deep ocean, engage in experiments, and investigate our tide pool play scape.
Maritime Center – a hands-on teaching facility built for exploration of maritime history.
Maddie James Seaside Learning Center – our spectacular “on the water” facility featuring a 300’ Ocean Science Landing with fascinating science and maritime learning stations and vessel moorings.
R/V Sea Explorer – a 65-ft. marine science research vessel with state-of-the-art oceanography equipment where students become oceanographers for a day.
Spirit of Dana Point - a 118-ft. topsail schooner used for living history and at-sea maritime adventures.
Pilgrim – a 130-ft. historic tall ship made famous by Richard Henry Dana in his book Two Years Before The Mast. Students live as sailors in the 1830s during dockside programs that bring history to life.
Lazy-W Ranch – a residential camp in the Cleveland National Forest, where students spend their days and nights experiencing California history or investigating different ecosystems.
Ocean in Motion van – a mobile laboratory for outreach to special needs and underserved students.
Marine Life Conservation Area - a natural intertidal ecosystem of eight acres adjacent to our site.
Chambers Gallery Book and Gift Store – carrying the latest educational materials and ocean-themed items with proceeds benefiting Ocean Institute programs.
Samueli Lecture Hall and Conference Center - a unique setting for events with state-of-the-art audio/visual equipment. The center is also used for a variety of educational programs.
Current Facts (as of Dec. 2014)
Annual Students Served: 115,000 Annual Public Served: 50,000 Total Guests Served: 165,000
Staff: 115 (full and part-time)
Dana Point Chamber of Commerce – Business of the Year 2008
Orange County Department of Education – Outstanding Contributions in Education Award
U. S. Sailing – National Outstanding Community Sailing Program Award
2005 National Science Foundation Award
2003 National Science Foundation Award
Inaugural Walter Cronkite Award, National Maritime Historical Society
Program of the Year, American Sail Training Association
Dana Point, Calif. – April 10, 2017 – The Ocean Institute, Orange County’s leading marine science, education, and maritime history center, today announced its Board of Directors named Dan Pingaro as its new president and CEO after completing a nationwide search. Pingaro, who will assume his new position on April 24, 2017, most recently served as executive director of Laguna Beach Community Foundation (LBCF) for three years.